Brexit News for Sunday 12 March

Brexit News for Sunday 12 March

Article 50 Bill ‘likely to be passed by Lords on Monday’

Labour Lords sources have told Sky News they are 80-90% sure the Brexit bill will be passed by peers by midnight on Monday. It will allow Theresa May to commence Brexit negotiations on Tuesday. In the last few weeks, the Lords voted for two amendments to the Brexit bill: to give European citizens a guaranteed right to remain in the UK; and to give Parliament a vote on the withdrawal deal Theresa May negotiates with the EU. The bill is going back to the Commons when it is expected to once again be approved without those amendments before returning to the Lords. The source told Sky News that, this time, the Lords are almost certain to vote it through unamended. It comes amid reports Cabinet ministers have been told to cancel overseas trips and Tory whips are making sure every MP is present for the signing of the bill in Parliament this week. – Sky News

…as David Davis warns Tory rebels not to sabotage Brexit…

David Davis has issued a last-minute warning to Tory rebels not to sabotage the Article 50 Bill amid fears any change could see Brexit end up in the courts. Writing exclusively for The Telegraph, the Brexit Secretary says that putting promises over leaving the EU into law creates a “greater risk of legal action”. He warns that Theresa May would be negotiating with “one hand tied behind her back” if MPs approve two changes to the law proposed by Lords. Mr Davis also says that protecting the rights of EU citizens in the UK without reciprocal promises would plunge more than a million Britons abroad into “uncertainty”. – Sunday Telegraph

  • We cannot allow Parliament the chance to veto Brexit – David Davis MP for the Sunday Telegraph

…and Cabinet ministers are forced to cancel overseas trips ahead of Brexit showdown

Cabinet ministers have been forced to cancel overseas trips after the whips demanded every MP is present for a showdown over the Article 50 Bill this week. Conservative whips have effectively banned foreign trips by refusing to approve any “slips”, which give MPs permission to be away from Parliament. The move comes amid fears more Tory MPs than expected could rebel over two Brexit amendments, risking an unexpected defeat because the party’s majority is so slim. At least two ministers planning foreign trips abroad have been forced to cancel their plans because of the tight restrictions, The Telegraph has learned. – Daily Telegraph

Theresa May ‘will ask EU to pay back our £9bn’

Theresa May will call on Brussels to hand back £9bn of UK assets held by an EU bank when she fires the Brexit starting gun — dramatically cutting Britain’s final bill. Senior government sources say that when the prime minister triggers article 50, she will point out that Britain is entitled to the return of funds held by the European Investment Bank (EIB). Legal advice circulating in Whitehall — seen by The Sunday Times — says that not only is the government not legally obliged to pay Brussels a penny, but the EU should pay Britain for its share of the funds in the EIB. That will allow May to argue that EU demands for Britain to pay €60bn — about £53bn — in contributions to the EU budget and money to plug the deficit in its own pension scheme is ­unacceptable. – The Sunday Times (£)

Beware the Ides of March, ministers warn Number 10 as date is chosen to trigger Brexit

It is a date famous for treachery when Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by friends who turned out to be enemies. But for Number 10 the famous prophecy to “beware the Ides of March” was originally ignored as they picked March 15 as the likely date to trigger Brexit. Now the UK’s “independence day” is expected to be later in the month amid concerns from Government figures about the symbolism. – Daily Telegraph

Refusing to plan for ‘no deal’ with the EU post-Brexit would be a ‘dereliction of duty’, warns Foreign Affairs Committee

The Government is not doing its job properly by refusing to plan for the possibility that it cannot reach a trade agreement with the European Union within two years, an influential cross-party group of MPs has said. The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, which has been investigating Government preparation for Brexit, warned that there was a “real prospect” that negotiations could fail and that the current lack of preparation was “a dereliction of duty”. The warning, which comes just days before the triggering of Article 50, has echoes of criticisms leveled by the committee at the David Cameron ministry. Mr Cameron’s government tried to make a virtue of resolutely failing to plan for leaving the EU, with Downing Street repeatedly dismissing the possibility of a Leave vote. – The Independent

Jeremy Corbyn urged to agree to curbs on migration as Labour MPs fear he has no Brexit plan…

Jeremy Corbyn will be pressed this week to agree a points-based system for EU migrants after Brexit . That means if he was PM no one from the EU could come to Britain to settle without a guaranteed job. Theresa May could trigger Article 50 , beginning the negotiations for Britain to leave the EU, as early as Thursday. And Mr Corbyn’s MPs are frustrated that the Labour leader has no Brexit plans of his own in place. Next week former Cabinet minister Liam Byrne will circulate his own policy document among backbenchers in an effort to nudge Mr Corbyn forward. – Sunday Mirror

…while John McDonnell claims Labour has ‘radical vision’ for Brexit

Labour is the only party with “radical vision” to help Britain adapt to Brexit, the shadow chancellor has said. Speaking at the party’s economic conference in Glasgow, John McDonnell described the government’s austerity measures as “criminally destructive”. He also said Labour would hold a summit next month on helping self-employed workers who face a rise in National Insurance, under new government plans. The formal process of Britain leaving the EU is expected to begin this week. Mr McDonnell said the Brexit vote had created “huge challenges” and warned that “crashing out of the EU” would mean Britain would be cut off from investment. “We will be cut off from our biggest trading partner. We will be cut off from the skills and contribution that EU nationals have made to our economy and society,” he said. – BBC News

Tory MP Suella Fernandes: Brexit will strengthen women’s rights

Women cannot say they are “shut out of an elite boy’s club” with a female Prime Minister handling Brexit negotiations, a Conservative MP has said. In a lively and at times heated discussion about what leaving the EU will mean for women, Suella Fernandes, the MP for Fareham, said having Theresa May in power while Brexit negotiations are underway means no-one can claim women’s voices will not be heard during the process. “No-one can say that women are shut out of an elite boy’s club,” Ms Fernandes told the audience. “No. We have a woman leading Britain as we leave the European Union. For me, that speak volumes.” The Eurosceptic MP was appearing on a panel at the Women of the World festival in London alongside Labour MP Stella Creasy, Baroness Jenny Jones of the Green Party and Joanna Maycock, the Secretary General of the European Women’s Lobby. – i News

Australia and New Zealand first in line for British trade deal, claims NZ minister

Todd McClay, who is visiting London for a meeting of Commonwealth trade ministers, insisted that New Zealand negotiating a free-trade deal with the EU did not diminish the priority for a post-Brexit deal with Britain. New Zealand concluded talks in Brussels this week, marking the early steps in negotiating a free trade deal with the bloc, however, Mr McClay said there were “capacity issues” but insisted that a “high-quality comprehensive agreement with the EU” did not preclude one with the UK. Addressing his followers on Twitter, the minister hinted New Zealand and Australia could be the first to enter into a new arrangement with Britain when it finally leaves the ailing European project. – Daily Express

Getting off to good start with EU talks crucial to getting best Brexit deal for Britain, says CBI boss

Triggering Article 50 will mark a new beginning for the UK. And Britain’s businesses are 100 per cent committed to making a success of Brexit. That’s why getting off to a good start in the EU talks will be vital in getting the best deal. Companies want to see some “early wins”, creating momentum towards an agreement and helping them and their customers maintain the confidence that has helped the UK economy beat expectations since the Referendum. Business has three suggestions to help set a friendly tone. Waiting for the ‘divorce’ first would push trade talks into the long grass. So discussing new trading arrangements should go hand-in-hand with negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU. – The Sun on Sunday

Nick Boles MP: I backed Remain. But I hope other MPs who did so too reject these Lords amendments to the Article 50 bill

Emerging from a fourth round of chemotherapy isn’t anybody’s idea of a holiday, but enforced idleness gave me plenty of time to follow the Lords debate on the Article 50 bill. As someone who was convinced of the case for us to remain in the EU, and downcast when we lost the referendum, I have nothing but respect for those who still feel that it was a disastrous decision – even if I do not share their bleak outlook. In fact, I find something rather admirable in the declarations by distinguished Conservative figures from the 1980s and 1990s that they have believed in the crucial importance of Britain’s membership of the European Union to our national interest for over 40 years, and are not inclined to change their views just because a majority of the British people took a different one in last year’s referendum. They are entitled to stick to their guns, as I am sure Bill Cash, Bernard Jenkin and Jacob Rees-Mogg would have done, had the referendum gone the other way. – Nick Boles MP for ConservativeHome

Iain Duncan Smith MP: Lords’ Brexit amendments are a V-sign to voters that could destabilise the leaving process

With all the fuss around the Brexit bill, you would be forgiven for thinking this was a complex and long-winded document. In fact, it’s only four lines long — perhaps the shortest I have ever seen. It also has a simple, singular and clearly expressed purpose, which is to give effect to the vote last June in which the ­British people decided to leave the EU. So simple, that the bill passed the Commons with majorities larger than the Government’s overall majority. Despite that, peers decided to amend it. Not once, but twice. Tomorrow, the Commons — the elected part of Parliament — will get the legislation back from the Lords to trigger Article 50. This is the mechanism to get us out of the EU. – Iain Duncan Smith MP for The Sun on Sunday

Liam Fox MP: Championing free trade is right for all citizens of the Commonwealth

Yesterday and today I am hosting the inaugural Commonwealth Trade Ministers’ Meeting, an event that brings together politicians, officials and policymakers from over 20 Commonwealth nations. It is a testament to the strength of the Commonwealth that so many of its countries will be represented at this landmark meeting, during which we will discuss the opportunities for trade, investment, and enhanced friendship that lie ahead. We are meeting at a time of great change for the United Kingdom. As we begin the process of leaving the European Union, there will be challenges ahead, yet also unprecedented opportunities. For the first time in over 40 years, we will have our own, independent trade policy, allowing us to renew bonds of trade and commerce with our partners across the globe. As the Chancellor said yesterday, we are opening a new chapter in our country’s history. – Liam Fox MP for ConservativeHome

Sunday Times: A good EU deal needs cool heads and common sense

The phoney war is almost over. Theresa May will shortly trigger article 50 and issue the formal letter of notification to begin the process of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. Thus will begin a fascinating and challenging chapter leading to this country’s formal exit from the EU in two years’ time. It could and should go well, if good sense prevails on both sides. Nobody, however, pretends it will be easy. In the past few days the prime minister has had her first significant political setback with the backlash over Philip Hammond’s budget. The chancellor’s decision to raise national insurance contributions for the self-employed, a key Tory constituency, went unchallenged by Downing Street or, for that matter, the rest of the cabinet. Nobody appears to have pointed out, or even spotted, that it broke a 2015 Conservative manifesto pledge. – Sunday Times editorial

The Observer: After Brexit, Israel senses a chance to boost trade with UK

From a hilltop in Masa’ada on the Israeli side of the Syrian border in the Golan Heights, Faried al-Said Ahmed surveys his cherry and apple trees 80 feet below. Barbed wire surrounds the steep hillside, preventing people entering a minefield planted when the Six-Day War ended 50 years ago. Currently, the trees are bare. Cherry-picking season is May and June, while 45,000 tons of apples will leave this co-operative farm after they ripen in September and October. Although Syrians are fighting less than three miles away and there’s the danger of being blown up underfoot, Ahmed has a more pressing concern: the European Union. The co-operative sells fruit across Israel, but Ahmed claims the EU’s protection of its member states’ farms makes exports to Europe all but impossible. “If it were possible to sell in England then, my God, yes, we would,” he says. The 52-year-old might soon get his wish. When article 50 is triggered in the coming days, the UK will be only two years away from negotiating its own trade deals. The focus has been on an agreement with the US, but given the probable complications of negotiating with self-proclaimed master dealmaker Donald Trump, Israel might be first to sign on the dotted line. – The Observer editorial

Sunday Telegraph: The Tory tax mess must not divert focus from Brexit

Last week’s Budget has tarnished the Government’s reputation ahead of its greatest challenge: Brexit negotiations with the EU. Theresa May is expected to trigger Article 50 in the coming days, and that is what her ministers should be focused upon. Instead, the dreadful mistake of raising National Insurance contributions has cast into sharp relief the divisions within her Cabinet. What the country needs now is united and effective government. The error made in the Budget is well known and disliked. The Chancellor raised direct taxation on the self-employed, which contradicted not only a manifesto pledge but the spirit of post-war Toryism. This is bad enough. The blame game that has followed has made matters worse. – Sunday Telegraph editorial

Robert Colvile: Britain needs to focus on more than Brexit

During the US election campaign, the Trump-supporting tech investor Peter Thiel complained that the press were taking his man literally but not seriously. Better, said Thiel, to take the Republican candidate seriously but not literally: to pay more attention to his ideas, and less to the details of each individual tweet. Something similar could be said of the British economy: that we focus too much on the seriously dramatic and too little on the dramatically serious. For example, much attention has been paid to the post-Brexit plunge in the pound. Yet against the euro at least, this merely takes it back to the level of 2013 – which the Bank of England thought was pretty much what was needed. The subsequent rise was largely due not so much to Britain’s great strengths, as to the European Central Bank embracing quantitative easing and tanking its own currency. In the same vein, pretty much every analysis of the British economy takes Brexit as its starting point. The continuing boom in consumption, for example, is being hailed as a great vote of confidence by the public in our future as a nation. – Robert Colvile for CapX

Adam Boulton: Menace, the PM’s Brexit weapon of choice

It is the moment those who always believed Albion was perfidious have been waiting for. The rebate conceded to Margaret Thatcher at the Fontainebleau summit in 1984 has become the bill to be presented to Theresa May as the price of getting out of the European Union. The prime minister was not lying when she told reporters in Brussels last week that “there was only ever one Margaret Thatcher”. She also repeated three more times that the UK will trigger article 50 of the Lisbon treaty before the end of this month.The timing of this formal notice of quitting is a matter of fine calculation for the government but May’s real problems will start only once the two sides are locked in talks. If all goes as expected in the houses of parliament this week the Lords rebellion will come to nothing. May could then make her move hours after the withdrawal bill becomes an act. – Adam Boulton for The Sunday Times (£)

Brexit comment in brief

Being a global free-trading nation isn’t as easy as it looks – Phillip Inman for The Observer

As Theresa May prepares to trigger Article 50, she must try to keep the UK together – The Independent editorial

I’ve had my marching orders but I can’t let us sleepwalk into Brexit – Lord Heseltine in The Sunday Times

The Foreign Affairs Committee gets it wrong – Parliament should just enable the letter to be sent – John Redwood’s Diary

The Tories’ tax troubles show how tough they will find Brexit – Stephen Bush for the New Statesman

Brexit news in brief

Jeremy Corbyn: second Scottish referendum would be ‘absolutely fine’ – video – The Observer

Arlene Foster: Sinn Fein rise is a ‘wake-up call’ for Unionism – Sky News